Sorry, I missed what the "strong message" was that was sent to those who wish to smuggle cacti (NZ Herald, Wednesday) into New Zealand. Was it the 12 months' intensive supervision and the 100 hours' community work, is that what is considered a "strong message"? Oh please, this woman went to inordinate lengths to conceal seeds and plants to smuggle into NZ and all she gets is the "wet bus ticket slap over the wrist". Surely a prison sentence would serve as a deterrent or, preferably, send her back to where she came from with these plants and never allow her to enter NZ again. That is a real deterrent. No wonder these smugglers continue to bring into NZ fruit, vegetables, plants, etc; as any punishment, if they do get caught, is negligible.
Brenda Barnes, St Heliers
Common sense needed
Fran O'Sullivan's nicely summarised column on climate change sums up a lot of our hesitant behaviour when it comes to rebuilding an appropriate kind of ecosystem, of which future humans and other species will benefit from. Yet, here's another commission (the Climate Change Commission) trying to research, calculate and justify a new plan of attack, duplicating what anyone with some common sense has predicted for years. How much research do we need to invest in, when all these funds could long have been used to allocate land and plant many native varieties of beneficial, non-invasive, plant species, which double as shelter belts for other species, with enough open spaces to minimise any future fire hazards? How hard is it to comprehend basic biological and physical facts and their repercussions? If done simply and correctly, with a seriously good dose of common sense, there is never any other good reason for all these delays. In my view, the length of time in delays only benefits a very narrow bureaucratic society.
Rene Blezer, Taupō
I read with interest the article on the new "revolutionary" history curriculum for students through years one to 10. A very detailed and complete programme – well done to Professor Michael Belgrave and the Royal Society expert panel. It is to be hoped that Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Associate Minister Kelvin Davis can now inspire those responsible to develop a similar "revolutionary" curriculum in the areas of maths and science for those same students, to reverse the internationally embarrassing level to which our standards have dropped in these areas.
Warwick Maxwell, St Heliers
For mre than 30 years New Zealand's maths and English teaching has gone way downhill, based on international measures, as science probably has too. The Ministry of Education, teachers' unions and governments should hang their heads in shame. National tried to overhaul the school system to expand the excellence that undoubtedly exists in some schools and classes but could not get that through Parliament or the support of the politically driven teachers' unions. Now the Government proposes 10 years of NZ history classes, and potentially compulsory te reo. Balanced and dispassionate history is reasonable but 10 years is unnecessary and extreme. How will that help job prospects and the country's capabilities? One term or semester would be ample. The effort required of the ministry, teachers, and pupils for this will further dilute that of far more important subjects. For most children there are limits to how many subjects they can become accomplished in. If NZ wants to get ahead socially and economically, the focus should be heavily on STEM subjects and English, in streamed classes to cater for different natural abilities. The key is maximum use of time, focused on the building block process of mastering critical subjects.
Rod McIntyre, St Heliers
Back in the queue
To date, the EU has achieved a 3 per cent vaccination rate for Covid-19, the UK rate stands at 15 per cent. New Zealand currently stands at 0 per cent, by April-June of 2021... who can say? Latest reports are that the Pfizer vaccine will not be delivered until "the end of March". So much for going early and going strong. Minister Hipkins had deceptively led us to believe that "we were at the head of the queue". The PM has declared our recent election "a Covid-19 election". Should an outbreak now occur and before a large percentage of our population have been vaccinated, our Government's risky and dilatory actions will not readily be forgiven.
Larry Mitchell, Rothesay Bay
We learn from the news that University of the South Pacific vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife Sandra Price were rounded up to be deported to Brisbane. This action by the Fijian state has all the hallmarks of a police state. It casts serious doubts about Fiji's return to democracy following the 2006 military coup. Did that really happen - the return to democracy? Or, has that been just a masquerade? If a much-respected university vice-chancellor - in the university community in Fiji and the region - can be treated in this deplorable manner where does this leave the ordinary citizenry?
Rajend Naidu, Sydney
I would like to support Wednesday's excellent letter by S. Hansen of Hastings. Young children are often thoughtless, but the wonderful thing is that they can be educated to be passionate protectors of wild creatures, thereby enhancing the enjoyment for many generations to come. The suggestion of employing student guide/informers at the sites each summer could produce a number of good outcomes. Jacinda Ardern's Government should warm to this.
Dr Harold Coop, Remuera
Apps and ATMs
I go into many stores without touching a thing. In every one I go into, I am expected to scan the Covid tracer app. However, every ATM I go to, like every other person, I touch the screen, I touch the buttons and I touch the machine. Yet not a single ATM machine has a Covid tracer QR code available. What good is the Covid tracing app when someone doesn't go into any of the stores a Covid positive person goes to, however, uses the same ATM?
Kent Millar, Blockhouse Bay
The Russian ambassador to New Zealand should be sent home until Vladimir Putin has Alexei Navalny and his followers released. Holding the World Football Cup and the Winter Olympics in Russia was a mistake. There cannot be normal relations with such a country. Our relationship with China should also be similarly scrutinised. With the ongoing illegal occupation of Nepal, the clamping down on universal freedoms in Hong Kong including detention of journalists, the persecution of Uighurs, the military threat against Taiwan and having conditions that caused the coronavirus, means it is time to reduce our trade with China and maintain firm diplomatic pressure for human rights. How much evidence do we need before we will act? Hopefully the Biden Administration will help the West find its moral compass in a world with too many dictators, weapons and corrupt police that use brutality to keep their leaders in power.
Steve Lincoln, Botany Downs
The juxtaposition of Oceania's "luxury living' insert and the "unfair retirement village" article in today's NZ Herald has significance. The retirement village industry swamps all media with top-of-the-range advertising urging us to luxurious living. Yes, we live a relatively pampered existence and are generally well looked-after but, as the article by Anne Gibson points out, there is a downside as the industry eats into our children's inheritance. A total 87 per cent of residents are satisfied, according to the Retirement Villages Association. Satisfied with what? Yes, our accommodation and care are well catered for generally. That does not mean we are satisfied with the conditions of the contracts we entered into but it is the price we pay for retirement security. These contracts are non-negotiable in most respects. It would be advantageous to see changes that reflect a more equitable outcome to residents in the future.
Tony Goodwin, Point Chevalier
In the election campaign on TV, Jacinda Ardern was asked "whether a vote for Labour was a vote for the Greens" and her answer was it was a vote for Labour. This was a lie if, by omission, a yes answer would have changed my vote. The last time I voted for Labour was before the anti-smacking bill, where a citizen referendum that had a huge margin against was ignored and it was passed. Now with the Māori wards, they are guilty of similar behaviour, ignoring or removing rights to referenda for the sake of political correctness and, as the NZ Herald stated, not mentioning it in their campaign is another lie by omission and anti-democratic. I personally think it is racist and has similarities to apartheid. What can you expect when Iwi roadblocks are not subject to the law of the land?
Chris Humphries, Mt Roskill
Short & sweet
Where democracy is concerned, our modern liberal democratic project is just that. It's historically recent. And it's not writ in stone that it will succeed. It is a wholly human project that needs more people to defend it against those trying to replace it with something less liberal and less democratic. And the heavy lifting will come down to each of us because elites, unfortunately, can't be relied on. While we should never have attached legal consequences to offence, which can be exploited almost infinitely.
Rod Matthews, Melbourne
Borders a joke
So an importer of banned flora is caught red-handed at the airport for the second time, and gets no fine, no deportation, just home detention. Then the judge goes on that we take this sort of offence seriously. It is little wonder people continue to offend, we DO NOT take it seriously. Our borders are a joke, which is why they are continually breached.
S.P. McMonagle, Greenhithe
I see we now have the highest number of houses for sale in eight years. Could it be that landlords are now selling their rental properties and taking their capital gain as a response to the changes in the tenancy laws? Whoever would have thought it?
Wayne Carpenter, Glen Eden
So New Zealand Rugby are planning to sell a chunk of commercial rights for $400 million.
I hope this turns out better than their brilliant decision to invest $20 million in Sky TV - now worth $4 million.
Garry Wycherley, Awakino
Sending a message
Do New Zealanders really believe supervision and Community Service sends a strong message to the cacti smuggler, after all in 2019 she also tried to bring in seeds and a snail. Imagine the damage this all could have caused for our country. It's time we became truly "strong in our message" and gave a hefty fine as well.
Linda Beck, West Harbour
We are again being reminded to wear masks on public transport in Auckland and, being a regular bus user in South Auckland, it appears more so in this area that wearing masks is optional. It appears the QR code stickers on the Ritchie Buses are being removed also. Who is supposed to enforce this law?
R. Sharpe, Wattle Downs
Forum for history
Aren't we fortunate that we have people like Rita Ricketts, who actually knows her stuff, and a forum, the NZ Herald, where, occasionally at least, seriously important academic scholarship relating to our history can still be presented, if only in a concise format, for general consumption and enlightenment?
C. Johnstone, Grey Lynn